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In the 35 years leading up to 2003, there was
an average of one mid-air collision per year.
However, since December 2007 there have
been seven mid-air collisions, resulting in nine
fatalities. This is a concerning increase.
The majority of mid-air collisions occurred in the circuit area. Additionally,
there have been a number of ‘near misses’ at busy aerodromes.
Detailed are some key safety factors and practical recommendations
to assist pilots in avoiding mid-air collisions. This list is not
exhaustive, nor are these recommendations the only factors a pilot
should consider.
Situational awareness
Maintaining situational awareness can save your life
know what is going on around you
predict what could happen.
High cockpit workload is a significant factor in a pilot losing situational
awareness. High traffic density, radio congestion, instructional flights
and inexperience can increase cockpit workload.
Make sure you:
prepare and plan your flight
prioritise your tasks and remain alert
listen for other radio calls to identify other aircraft positions
consider re-scheduling if traffic density or radio congestion increase
to an uncomfortable level.
You need heightened situational awareness during diverse and
complex circuit operations at busy aerodromes. Infringement of
opposite circuit flight paths during contra circuit operations and
management of different aircraft speeds and performance in the circuit
are especially important factors.
To minimise these risks, you should:
remain clear of the opposite circuit, don’t
drift after takeoff and don’t overshoot
turning onto finals
maintain an active lookout for traffic in the
other circuit
familiarise yourself with the speed and
performance of other aircraft.
Lookout
The first and last line of defence
An effective lookout is essential—always
assume that you are not alone. ‘See and
avoid’ principles are commonly used, but
have limitations. ‘Alerted see and avoid’ can
be more effective, but is not always possible.
Most mid-air collisions occur when one aircraft
collides with another from behind, or both
aircraft converge from a similar direction.
You should:
maintain an effective lookout in all
directions, including behind
not become complacent, even if you are
familiar with an aerodrome
increase vigilance in high-risk areas,
including inbound reporting points and in
the circuit area
ensure you sight any preceding aircraft
before turning finals, otherwise consider
going around
be aware of, and manage blind spots as part
of your lookout technique
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use strobes, beacons and landing lights to increase aircraft visibility
turn your transponder on, code 1200, ALT mode.
Radio procedures
Talk is not cheap
Aviate, navigate and communicate—they’re your priority. Effective
communication assists situational awareness.
Incident reports show pilots sometimes do not follow or understand
instructions given by air traffic control (ATC). When ATC gives you an
instruction, you should:
acknowledge ATC in a timely manner
think about what is required and then action the instruction
tell ATC if you do not think you can comply with an instruction
advise ATC if you do not understand an instruction
not be afraid to ask ATC for assistance.
When an aircraft is equipped with dual radios, incorrect selection
of frequencies or transmission mode may create communication
difficulties. To avoid these:
always confirm that the frequency, transmit selector and volume
control are set for the radio in use
ensure you have received and understood the ATIS well before the
approach point.
Pilots can become confused when they receive an unexpected instruction
from ATC, or are unable to make a planned radio call. To avoid confusion:
have an alternative plan if you are unable to make your inbound
call to ATC due to frequency congestion
monitor radio communications, and do not transmit during ATC
instruction and responses with other aircraft
make radio calls brief, clear, to the point and use standard phraseology.
GAAP procedures
Every GAAP aerodrome has location-
specific procedures.
Surveys of all general aviation procedures
aerodromes (GAAP) show that some pilots
misunderstand the role of ATC at a GAAP
aerodrome. Remember:
in VMC, the pilot in command must
sight and maintain separation from
other aircraft
comply with ATC instructions, and if
unable to comply advise ATC
advise ATC if sight is lost of other
aircraft.
ATC controls runway operations with
landing and take-off clearances. They
also provide traffic information and/or
sequence instructions.
Often pilots do not have a contingency
plan for frequency congestion.
Common congestion problems occur at
GAAP approach points and on final
approach. Remember:
if the frequency is congested, have a ‘plan B’
consider specific risks at your location
consider re-scheduling if traffic density
or radio congestion increase to an
uncomfortable level.

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